A Leap of Faith…the CPS Exam

I guess I’ve moved to the once-a-month blog! Seriously though.. I promised some folks that I would write about my experience sitting for the CPS (Certified Professional Secretary) exam which was held November 4th all across the country.

Like many admins that have been in the workforce for more than a few years.. I felt for a long time that it would be a waste of time to sit for a certification exam this far into my career. Why bother? It’s obvious I’m qualified.. Or, is it? Or the other in-my-head argument, why spend the money? It’s not inexpensive to sit for this exam and if one includes the cost of the study guides..it can be downright beyond pricey.

For me, the journey to sit for this exam has been on-going in my head for at least three years. I had planned many times to send in my registration, but managed to find at least a half-dozen justifiable (lol!) reasons to postpone. About eighteen months ago, a friend of mine who has even MORE experience and more administrative responsibilities than I have, began talking about the exam. As she and I became more involved in our IAAP chapter, we began to mutually feel a responsibility to lead by example; we decided to sit for the exam together.

Many IAAP chapters have study groups as did ours. Weekly, this group gathers to address one chapter of a study section at a time- led by a fabulously dedicated chapter member, who already holds her certification.

As we approached the registration deadline, my chapter President and I pushed to get our paperwork in by deadline. Then, we forgot about the exam for several weeks. One night, after a chapter meeting, one of our fellow members playfully chided us for not studying yet. I think we both realized at that time.. it was time to get busy.

Let me tell you about the exam.. no.. not the questions..but what I know now.
Simply put, it’s all about preparation. Did I pass ? Don’t know. Won’t find out until Christmas week. (kind of cruel, don’t you think?) What I do know, is that had I truly dedicated at least 2 hours of study along with my study group per week, I have no doubt I would’ve fared much better.

The day started with about 10 of us at the exam center, on early Saturday am.. 8:30 (yikes). We’d been advised to bring water, a basic calculator and 2 No. 2 pencils. I brought a few extra snacks and coffee.. and felt good to go.

There is a sense of ‘being in the trenches’ together and hunkering down once the exam starts. It’s timed- 3 sections, about 2 1/2 hours each, with breaks in between. Everyone starts out energetic, but I’d say it was obvious by the 3rd section everyone was ready to get the …. out of there! It’s a multiple-choice exam. I’m glad for that. I think it allows you to eliminate the more obvious wrong answers and then.. if you don’t know the answer for certain, you still have 50-50 odds at being correct. [Note here to my fellow exam takers…. I am still struggling with the rule about writing numbers! I beg forgiveness.)

Indeed though, I am proud of myself for sitting for this exam. When the results are returned, I’ll know without a doubt- what are my strengths-what are my areas where I can really learn more. Isn’t that just another way of approaching professional development? Being willing to self-assess and choosing to know where I can invest in improvement.

In this current workforce, knowing and improving one’s area of weakness is not a weakness, it’s a very smart and brave career move. My advice to my fellow admins- Go for it! There is not a better sense of accomplishment in this field. I commend all of my peers who already hold either the CPS and/or CAP certifications. I have absolute respect for each and every one of you.

And, yes.. I will share my results once I have received them. In the meantime as we head into the crazy/zany holiday season… I wish everyone a very peaceful and serene work environment. (Fat chance, eh? Well.. I’m putting it on MY wish list!)

Author: KMK Foley

Storyteller. Wicked sense of humor. Tenacious learner, Coffee Lover, especially Dunkin' Donuts.

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